When National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning traveled to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to accept her award at the White House, she was there to do more than just celebrate her success -- she was on a mission

By Tierney McAfee
May 03, 2018 01:05 PM

When National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning traveled to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to accept her award at the White House, she was there to do more than just celebrate her success — she was on a mission.

Manning, an English language development teacher from Spokane, Washington, and the 2018 National Teacher of the Year recipient, had brought with her a stack of letters written by her immigrant and refugee students and addressed to President Trump, The Washington Post reported.

When Manning met Trump briefly on Wednesday, she gave him the letters and explained how eager her students were for him to read each of them.

Manning said some students wrote about their experiences coming to the United States from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Uganda, Burma and El Salvador because they “felt it was important for the president to understand the really rigorous and difficult process and length of time it takes to come to the United States as a refugee.”

President Donald Trump and Mandy Manning
| Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

Others told the president of their dreams and aspirations, how they wanted to contribute to society and how coming to the United States gave them hope.

“The thing about our immigrant and refugee students is that they have this innate hopefulness,” Manning told The Washington Post. “They have gone through very, very difficult experiences, but they see coming to the United States as an opportunity. They feel that they can have dreams, and that they can potentially achieve those dreams. It’s really quite beautiful, actually, because no matter what — no matter what they experience — they still have this hope, this resilience.”

Trump has long taken a hard line against accepting refugees into the United States, including those from Muslim-majority countries, Central American nations, and African nations like Haiti and El Salvador, which he infamously allegedly referred to as “s–thole countries.”

Manning told the Post that Trump accepted the letters kindly on Wednesday, and then handed them to an aide, telling her to place them on his desk because he really wanted to read them.

“Of course, I can’t be sure that’s going to happen,” Manning said. “But like I said, my students are innately hopeful.”

Trump praised Manning’s “tireless dedication” during Wednesday’s ceremony, saying, “Sometimes all it takes to begin the next great American success story is a teacher who really, really cares.”

Manny has seen many examples of such success stories in her work at Joel E. Ferris High School’s Newcomer Center, where she has taught young people who have come from war-torn countries, from refugee camps, and some who have fled to the U.S. to escape religious or political persecution. Some of the teens have already experienced unimaginable horrors in their young lives, including coming home to find a mother killed, holding a brother as he died, or being forced to hide inside a cave to escape being killed themselves, Manning told the Post. Some arrived knowing no English and without any family to help them find their way.

Despite their hardships, the students go on to graduate high school and pursue higher education.

“It’s so amazing,” Manning said. “We can all learn so much from them.”